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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Your Questions, Your Money
  • July 29, 2009 02:56 PM UTC by Dagen McDowell

    Why Make Life Tougher for Hard-Working Business Owners?

    I just got back from a week with my entire family at Virginia Beach, Va.


    A vacation. Something that still feels foreign to me.


    When I was little, other families would rent beach houses or drive to Disney World. We didn’t. Once every few years my parents would take a three-day weekend. We might make it to the beach. But that was it.


    Why weren’t we like other families who took vacations? Now I understand.


    My parents owned and operated their own business. They simply couldn’t leave town.


    Running a small wholesale grocery business, they always ran so lean and worked with such a tight budget that there was no one there to fill the gaps when they were gone.


    My grandfather was so dedicated to the business that he famously (at least in my small hometown) unlocked the front door of the wholesale house every New Year’s Day for 63 years. New Year’s Day was not a day of rest; it was when they took inventory.


    My family never took a break or got a break.


    But I know my parents and grandparents are not unique. Their kind of work ethic is on display every day among small-business owners across the country.


    People dedicate their lives to the businesses they start or run. Maybe they love what they sell or the service they deliver. Maybe it’s just about the joy and pride of providing for your family, being your own boss and about serving your community.


    The hard work is there — where paid vacations do not exist.


    Knowing that, the most frustrating thing to see is that these dedicated business owners do not get a break from Uncle Sam. The government, especially lately, never seems to make things easier.


    Instead, let’s make life and namely work even harder.


    Let’s continue to add hundreds – no, make that thousands – of pages to the tax code, so filing your taxes becomes more complicated, frustrating and costly. This is a bi-partisan effort mind you.


    Oh and let’s raise your taxes while we’re at it. That’s what House Democrats want to do for many small businesses to pay for the health care overhaul.


    Let’s mandate that you provide health insurance and tax you if you don’t. Another idea from Democrats in the House.


    Let’s insert another hidden tax through a cap and trade system. In the works in Washington.


    Even when the government tries to help some, it fumbles badly. The stimulus package expanded COBRA health insurance benefits for people who had lost their jobs. But once again, the burden fell on the business owner. Employers had to cover the beefed-up benefits (a 65% subsidy) and then essentially had to wait to be reimbursed by the government. Many were scared of possible cash crunches, which I heard about frequently on “Your Questions, Your Money.”


    Why can’t the government do something to make life easier for the men and women who’ve created up to 80% of the jobs in this country, who sleep too little, who work too hard and rarely take a vacation?


    I don’t have that answer.


    My family’s story:



Laura, Cincinnati

Dagen, Thanks for having the courage to tell it like it is! So often, people want to hide their small town roots and values because they want to appear "sophisticated." The fact is, there are many, many Americans who can identify with, respect, and admire you and your transparency. Keep up the good work!

August 6, 2009 at 10:48 am

Stephen Slater

I have run my own business for the last 20 years. Previously, I was very successful in corporate america, and left to start my business in 1981, during that downturn. I have done well, every year, year after year, by doing what your family has done.... worked hard, never asked for anything, or expected anything from the govt and, have worked smart. My firm will continue to be successful, doing it the same time tested way, working harder and working smarter, to get through what President Obama is going to create for us all - higher taxes, higher prices and the return of inflation, lower growth, high unemployment and deficit/debt for future generations to deal with.

August 6, 2009 at 1:36 am

I'm a small business owner, and have wondered the same thing. However, entrepreneurship has no place in a Socialist society, where the mantra is "From each according to his abiities, to each according to his needs." You also left out how this president plans to raise taxes on venture capitalists, who take on the risk and invest in small businesses to make them grow and will now be taxed at a 40% plus rate, rather than the 15% rate they currently enjoy, if they guess right and their investment and risk taking is rewarded. Of course, if they guess wrong and lose money, their deduction will be limited to $3,000 per year. Unlimited upside taxation, negligible downside relief. Nice. I'm waiting for the first federal tax on tax to be introduced. I'm sure that's coming sometime.

August 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Carla, Ballwin, MO

Brookneal reminds me of the town my parents retired to - New Haven, Missouri, railroad track and all. New Haven is located on the Missouri River. Those small river towns are still great places to call "home". Thanks for the lovely video tribute.

July 31, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Your grandfather work ethic was amazing. The sense of duty, responsibility and dedication these people take on I am quite sure the rest of the working class don't understand. Sadly this seems to be an old fashion ethic which everyone want to see in others but don't want to do themselves. When someone starts a business they soon find out what their level of commitment is. Fortunately there are many out their and they need the support of the government.

July 31, 2009 at 6:14 am

Studio TV-15

I just viewed the video one can only admire your family's work ethic and deep dedication to all that has contributed to our country's greatness. You are truly blessed and best of all, you know it and celebrate it. I owned a small business for 10 years (publishing) and completely appreciate what it takes to maintain success. A business is a living and breathing entity that requires constant attention. Similarly, I was able to sell my business as the tide was retreating. It wasn't that I couldn't go on, but I had made so many innovations along the way to keep it on top that I knew it was time to go. To your point of government intrusion it was, and continues to be, the single most crippling factor. For every gain I made a new tax or rule would suck it away. Strangely enough, today I just learned that my most recent LLC venture was cleared for dissolution. I'm fed up with the taxes, fees, surcharges, paperwork and land mines the state and federal government continued to pile on. Dagen, I'm not sure how much will be "too much" for small business folks to either lock their doors and walk away or rise in unison and mount a revolt. As you said, the onslaught of widespread taxation is coming from both sides of the aisle. I applaud your family and those like them. I include my father in that cherished group. He worked like a rented mule to build his business and, God bless him, sold it and retired at the age of 55. He's now 90. Thanks for the uplifting visit to your home. A treat.

July 30, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Dagen, Thank you so much for sharing your family's story! It's easy to see where you get your "smarts". I try to watch "Your Money, Your Questions" as well as you and Brian Sullivan during the week as often as possible. I love your take on things. I have lived in Pullman, WA - home of Washington State University - since 1972. It's larger than your home town, but I'm sure it has the same feel. Like many, I came here as a student, intending to leave ASAP, but fell in love with it. Keep up the good work and don't hesitate to "educate" Brian Sullivan when he needs it. Thanks again.

July 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm


And Harry Reid says the insurance business is the most profitable industry in the nation. Now we know why he wants a piece of that action (health bill).

July 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm

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